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by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
The Islanders coaching staff have been reevaluating their defensive strategy since Mark Streit was injured during their intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday morning. Since Streit was acquired in free agency in 2008, he has been a staple on the Islanders blueline, averaging more than 25 minutes per game.

“Obviously he’s a big part of our team, playing the minutes he does, the power play, he’s the quarterback on the power play and he’s phenomenal on the penalty kill as well,” said Islanders forward Matt Moulson. “It’s not like he just had one role on this team, he is our MVP, so it’s going to be a tough challenge, but it’s something we have to face together.”

The Islanders head coach Scott Gordon has also felt the blow, but he knows the team will work through the adversity.

“It’s unfortunate because he (Mark Streit) looked really sharp in camp,” said Gordon. “It looked like he had an extra step and if you talk to all of our guys everybody is excited about this year. It’s certainly not the way you want to start, but we have to pull together and figure it out.”

While they reevaluate, the Islanders have defenseman Anders Erikkson practicing with the team on a Professional Tryout, as well as the Islanders newest free agency acquired veteran D-men Mark Eaton, Milan Jurcina and James Wisniewski.

“Having those guys (Mark Eaton and James Wisniewski) is going to help tremendously,” said Moulson. “Having Mark out, they’re both (Eaton and Wisniewski) great players, (Milan) Jurcina as well coming in. So it’s kind of sad because you think of having those guys around Mark (Streit) and how well he could have done this season… So it’s a tough break there, but luckily we have those guys to step in.”

The Islanders can also look towards their current roster and their rookies for added depth on the blue line this season. With Streit out, Coach Gordon hasn’t come to any final decisions.

“We’ll see what happens with the (exhibition) games here, but the plan was to have all the guys pretty much that have been here in camp, be here through Saturday and then we’ll reevaluate after that,” Gordon said about the Islanders current lineups.

So the rookies definitely have a chance to show Gordon and the rest of the coaching staff they are capable of playing on the Islanders blue line this coming season.

“It’s an opportunity for everybody,” Gordon said. “Hit a little daylight, you have to make the most of it… Whether it’s Dylan (Reese), whether it’s Calvin (de Haan), Travis (Hamonic), anybody else, you never know. The bottom line is you have to outperform somebody and now there’s one less guy to outperform.”

Even though the team is doing their best to come to terms with Streit’s injury and look to the future, the team is still feeling his loss.

“Mark (Streit) is an All Star defenseman,” said blue liner Jack Hillen. “I don’t think we have one D on our team that does what Mark does. So I think every guy needs to pick up his game a little bit and kind of fill that spot by committee a little bit.”

But no one on the team feels worse than Islanders forward Matt Moulson, who despite being told the injury was not his fault and that it was just a fluke, he still feels a little bit responsible. Although, talking to Streit has definitely helped him through it.

“I obviously feel horrible about what happened but I don’t think I really could have done anything differently,” Moulson said. “I didn’t hit him or anything. It was just kind of a freak play where I was chasing behind him on the penalty kill and kind of tried to turn and he caught an edge and fell into the boards.”

Moulson knows the Islanders will do whatever they can over the next few weeks to be ready for opening night on October 9.

“Sometimes you say a guy goes down and someone needs to step in and fill that void, but I don’t know if there’s really anyone even in the league that’s really had as much responsibility as Mark has had on this team in the last couple years,” Moulson said. “It’s definitely going to take everyone to step up to just kind of fill that hole.”
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